Advanced WordPress SEO Considerations

wp seoHaving worked through Basic WordPress SEO elements, we still have a few more cards up our sleeve that we can play to gain some additional Advanced WP SEO traction. One important aspect is getting relevant exact-match keyword search phrases distributed across multiple on and off page elements. Search engines assess many website factors, and its helpful to reinforce your on-page text with relevant keywords in all the little “out-of-sight” places. Doing this increases both the overall word count and balances keyword density… The following represents some tried and true mechanisms that will assist your site upwards…

Its by no means the final word – the goal posts are regularly moved, new strategies emerge and clever people keep creating new solutions to current set of problems. However, working through the items outlined, on top of the Basic WP SEO suggestions, should definitely give you incremental improvements to SERPs rankings.

 

Image Alt Tags & Titles

Many people overlook the advantage of adding relevant keyword search phrases to Image ALT tags within their posts. By default, the image file name is assigned to the Image Alt text tag. It’s not quite so bad if you accurately pre-named the images for the post in question, using an “exact match” keyword search phrases.

However, most people use either a cryptic, meaningless image file name, or in the case of photographs, they go with the file name assigned by the camera.

If you’ve a lot of images across your website, manually going through post by post, or page by page and adding Image Alt text can be a tedious and time-consuming task.

Fortunately, there is a quick ‘n dirty solution to this which automatically populates the image Alt and Title texts – try “SEO Friendly Images” which allows you to automatically reset image Alt across the entire site!

This is usually a “one-time” thing where you auto-update all images at once with SEO-Friendly Images. Thereafter, you manually assign Alt text to new images as you add them.

Note that it’s also important to accurately name your image files, preferably including an exact-match keyword search phrase that is relevant to the page / post.

Cross-Linking & Hyperlink Titles

Make it easy for both visitors to find (and search engines to index) content by cross-linking is an important strategy in your SEO processes.There are several ways of doing this, including the Navigation / Menu element discussed in the Basic WordPress SEO post. Linking to Related Posts is useful, as is ensuring that all links have, wherever possible, hyperlink Titles that include keywords relevant to the page the link is directed to.

As websites grow larger, and posts get pushed down the lists, it becomes more important than ever to have some kind of strategy in place that keeps them connected and accessible.

Related Posts & SEO

Make it easy for both visitors to find (and search engines to index) content by cross-linking is an important strategy in your SEO processes. There are many plugins available that take various approaches to listing related posts.

Shareaholic” is a simple but effective plugin that can relate pages and posts and offers various configuration options. It produces a list of related posts at the end of each post. It combines “Like” button options, meaning you get two functions with one plugin

Hyperlink Titles & SEO

WordPress 3.x has a very important SEO-relevant facility in the Links tool. First, there’s the convenience of (albeit slowly) displaying a drop-down list of all pages and posts within the site that you can link to. Second, it automatically adds the Title of the page or post as the “hyperlink title of the link you are adding. That increases keyword count / density, and conveys additional accurate information to Google et al on what the linked page is about!

Use this with caution! Over-optimisation penalties by Panda lurk in every corner… allow WordPress to set link titles automatically, don’t go getting creative and writing your own…

WP Tags & Categories in SEO

It is generally advised by most WP SEO experts that you use either Categories OR Tags but never both. Commonsense dictates that you use Categories because these are hierarchical whereas Tags are not.

Using Tags correctly requires the application of immense discipline to the process. Getting it right is akin to mastering levitation, something most of us mortals will never master. Fundamentally, it should not be a willy-nilly “shotgun” approach, where you assign hundreds of vaguely related tags to every page! That’s just another, but far worse version of keyword Spam.

– don’t use Tags at all is my advice, I’ve seen a great many site’s rankings destroyed by injudicious use of them.

Use Categories cautiously – clearly defined and well separated! To minimize the risk of duplicate content,  a post should only ever appear in 1 or 2 categories.

You should also make an effort to avoid content duplication – if you have a Category called Gas BBQs, you should not have a Page (or a Tag) called Gas BBQs because you will have file name conflicts and content issues.

Instead, you could tag the individual BBQ items with 2-Burner, 3-Burner, 4-Burner etc, enabling visitors to extract all associated Product posts in a more useful format. Similarly, you might assign Tags by Product Price Ranges – Under $200, $200 to $499, $500 to $999 etc. Work forward on the basis that;

  • Every Tag and every Category create a viewable page
  • Search engines don’t like duplicate content

Balance the use of Tags with the use of Categories to ensure that neither produce exactly the same output.

You should also be consistent with tag usage; review the list and reassign multiple similar tags to a single tag! For example, it would be inappropriate to have Tags (or Categories) for; Gas BBQ, Gas Barbecue and Gas Barbecue, given that those are simply variations on a theme. You might target those keyword phrases in particular posts, but I see neither reason nor merit in having multiple similar tags…

There are many and varied approaches to tagging, the one I use the most is Simple Tags – and oldie but a goodie. Its name belies its strengths because it actually performs a diverse array of functions;

  1. Mass Edit Terms – to view/edit every post and the tags assigned to it
  2. Manage Terms -to replace/ merge tags
  3. Auto-Terms – automatically add links to tag-phrases found within the posts
  4. Tag Cloud management

Use the “More” HTML tag

If your design theme does not include settings to trim content in categories, you should also use the “MORE” HTML tag to avoid having the entire content of every page displayed within each Category and Tag page. What “More” does is allow you to enforce a page ending at a specified location in the post, with a link to “Read More.” It effectively provides an excerpt of each post in the Category or Tag list.

Where you have many posts per category, it provides a useful teaser to each post rather than the full text output. There only seems to be one “Auto More” plugin that is supposed to automate the process of manually adding the More HTML tag into posts on the basis of pre-set rules.

However, the break by Word count does not work and the break by Characters options is not recommended, leaving break by Percentage  which gives erratic results… On the basis of sub-optimal automated output, I’m still adding the More tag manually – but am open to suggestions, if you know of a plugin that works properly.

The Headspace SEO plugin provides a facility to replace the “Read More” text with something a little more juicy,

Breadcumb Navigation

Proving a “breadcrumb” trail of navigation gives;

  • readers an indication of what section of your site they are in, and provides a way to retreat a level, or to the Home page.
  • search engines another indication of the internal structure of the website.

Both of these are “good things” and are recommended. There are multiple plugins available that provide this functionality, including Really Simple Breadcrumbs. There are themes that provide embedded breadcrumb navigation, such as the Genesis framework from Studiopress.

Here’s an example of Breadcrumb Navigation, showing the current page, parent page and Home page links;

Blogrolls & Links

Use the facility to link to all and sundry with great caution!

I’d NEVER give Home page or Sidebar links away to any site I don’t own! Not even if I was being paid handsomely to do so. Similarly I’d NEVER give a site-wide link to any site, especially one I own!

Think of links as like a bank account… incoming links are an asset, essentially a vote of confidence in your site by another, added to your link bank. Conversely, think of outward links as a vote for someone else, deducted from your link bank…

Therefore, a single site-wide link in a Blogroll that appears in your sidebar or footer might give away every bit of link juice you’ve earned. Multiple site-wide links may well leave you in a severe link deficit – to all intents and purposes, bankrupt…

If you must give links, use a proper Links page and display each link once only, where it will do the least possible damage to your own Google “link juice” reservoir! Don’t link to anyone via a reciprocal link exchange! That’s now on Google’s hit list.

Plugins to convert all outward links to “nofollow” are available, and those help to prevent Page Rank leakage from your website, whilst still providing a useful link that your site visitors can follow. The Better External Links plugin does just that – conserves your link juice on external links, but leaves your internal links untouched.

Duplicate Content

As alluded to before, you should be aware of this issue and take steps to minimise content duplication. For example, applying NOINDEX to archives (date-based lists of posts) and authors makes some sense. Some people suggest applying NOINDEX to Categories and Tags.

However, if you’ve used the More tag effectively to segment posts into nicely balanced summaries, and ensured that Categories and Tags are clearly separate elements with varied content, I’d leave them indexed.

The prevailing view on Content Duplication is that Search Engines clearly understand that there is a huge distinction between INTERNAL content duplication, and EXTERNAL (copied) content. Google staff have commented on this, and view it as a relatively normal occurrence – hence the growing utilisation of the rel=canonical tag which ought to point to the authoritative source of the content… Thereby negating the need to worry excessively about internal content duplication issues.

Comments & PingBacks

Comments are a vexed issue – if you allow them, make sure that WordPress is correctly set to prevent publication prior to moderation..

  • I turn off trackbacks and pingbacks off site-wide – this prevents Brute Force hacking attacks via the XMLRPC
  • I turn Comments off on all pages, and auto-set WordPress to turn post comments off after 2 weeks.

The Spam bots drive you crazy otherwise – on a busy WordPress site, the percentage of “good” comments is quickly overwhelmed by the trash if you don’t take firm steps to reduce it.  Make sure you’ve got Akismet installed, and automatically eliminating the spam that does find a chink in the armour.

Comments and pingbacks also have the potential to drain your link juice, so you need to weigh up the pros and cons here.

Content

Given that Google now rewards good content above all else, you should be writing more verbose pages / posts with a minimum of 600 – 800+ words if you are serious about attaining rankings. Those dinky little 250-word posts that got you good rankings in the past are not going to serve you so well in the future.

In fact, you might want to go back through a few of them and expand them out with additional original text, and increase their perceived value to both search engines and readers. Doing so will ensure the former send you more of the latter, which is the objective of the entire process!